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Khmer Rouge leaders to hear verdict in August

Cambodia's Khmer Rouge court said on Thursday it would deliver a verdict in the trial of two top regime leaders on August 7, offering hope for victims who have waited decades for justice.

PHNOM PENH: Cambodia's Khmer Rouge court said on Thursday it would deliver a verdict in the trial of two top regime leaders on August 7, offering hope for victims who have waited decades for justice.

Khmer Rouge "Brother Number Two" Nuon Chea, 87, and former head of state Khieu Samphan, 82, are accused of playing key roles in the communist regime blamed for the deaths of up to two million people in the late 1970s.

Prosecutors at the UN-backed tribunal are demanding life imprisonment for the "Killing Fields" atrocities, which saw nearly a quarter of the population wiped out through starvation, overwork and execution.

The two defendants insisted they were unaware of the crimes committed by the regime during a two-year trial -- which ended late last year -- billed as a chance for reconciliation, angering victims.

Their complex case has been split into a series of trials, the first of which focused on the forced evacuation of people into rural labour camps and related charges of crimes against humanity.

The verdict, and possible sentences, will be pronounced at 9am (0200 GMT) on August 7, the court said in a statement.

"Victims of the Khmer Rouge have waited nearly 40 years," said court spokesman Lars Olsen.

Chum Mey, one of a few people to survive incarceration at the Khmer Rouge's notorious Tuol Sleng prison, welcomed the looming judgment.

"I want to see them sentenced before they die. We're waiting for some kind of justice," he told AFP.

Khmer Rouge former foreign minister Ieng Sary died aged 87 last year while on trial for war crimes and genocide, cheating Cambodians of a verdict over his role in the regime's 1975-1979 reign of terror.

His wife Ieng Thirith, the former "First Lady" of the murderous regime, has been hospitalised in neighbouring Thailand for two months and is relying on a feeding tube and oxygen to survive, according to her family.

The 82-year-old, who experts say has Alzheimer's disease, was released in September 2012 after she was ruled unfit to stand trial.

The court said in the statement that the next trial for Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, which will cover charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, is expected to begin later this year.

Led by "Brother Number One" Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge dismantled modern society in a bid to create an agrarian utopia.

In its historic first trial, the court in 2010 sentenced former prison chief Kaing Guek Eav to 30 years in prison -- later increased to life on appeal -- for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people.

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